North Korea has such a long history of bizarre behavior, it’s easy to get used to it.

North Korea sparks a conflict, reacts to the conflict it created and then demands money or other concessions to resolve the conflict.

That may be all that is happening now, but if so, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has gone closer to the brink than he has ever gone before by canceling a non-aggression pact with his southern neighbor. With all that other nations would stand to lose from another Korean war, it’s up to the international community to put all its effort into stopping this one before it starts. When it comes to China, North Korea’s closest ally, it’s unclear whether that effort is being made.

This crisis is all North Korea’s doing. It sunk a South Korean naval vessel and as the evidence started to mount, North Korea acted like the injured party.

China’s relationship with North Korea is among the most secretive and mysterious alliances in the world.

Whether North Korea clears its actions with its superpower ally before it takes them, or if it acts impulsively and then hides behind its “big brother” is the subject of much speculation.

Chinese officials have just completed serious and productive talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but now may be in the position of vetoing sanctions against North Korea in the U.N. Security Council.

China finds itself in a complicated bind, in which its relations with North Korea affect its relations with all the other nations of the world.

“China won’t pressure North Korea. That could lead to a crisis,” said Gong Keyu, deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at

Shanghai’s Institute for International Studies. “But if China keeps doing nothing, some countries may come to doubt our influence in the region and question whether Beijing is a responsible international player.”

Clinton has said that the nations confronting North Korea need China’s support, not only to resolve this crisis but to “change the direction” of the North Korean government on a host of issues, led by its ongoing effort to become a nuclear power.

That’s something that we can’t get used to, and China should find a way to use its influence to make sure that it doesn’t happen.